Monday, July 27, 2015

FLL - Trash Trek: The Field Mat...

FIRST LEGO League Trash Trek Field set-up is now on route to teams; so let's take a look at the mat…

First impressions, the mat is made of a good quality material and is very smooth. It is colorful with various shades of light and dark which “might“cause a problem for color sensors seeking for the black lines for line following; similar to the problems that were caused with the Food Factor and Nature’s Fury mats; but there are solutions to it. It will prove interesting how teams use their color sensors. Notice also, there are no color lines (red, green) as in Learning Unleashed, Senior Solutions, Climate Connections, No Limits, (Wow, I’ve been around that long? Even longer!)
And what’s this, a curved triangular shape for the Base area? How does it compared to the old square Base area? It is a slightly larger area and the curved outside will be helpful placing your robot in any direction you want to leave the base. Notice a second curved line. I wonder why? What do you think it is for?


Thursday, July 23, 2015

Monday, July 20, 2015

B2B Academy: Animated Mosaics..

What is a mosaic?  Well, it is a design, picture, or pattern that is constructed by putting small colored bits of material onto a surface.  Architectural Mosaics can be made of colored glass, ceramic, or stone pieces, set in a type of mortar or cement. Mosaic art can also be made out of paper, bottle caps, popcorn; whatever.  The size of the pieces used determine the resolution (the fineness of detail that can be seen in an image); the smaller the pieces the greater the detail of the picture.

LEGO mosaics are made with plates of various sizes or bricks attached to a building plate. LEGO Animated Mosaics uses a MinuteBot® baseplate with bricks, plates with holes, beams, pins, and gears to create a design with moving parts. It could be manually operated or possibly be “motorized” with LEGO® Power Functions, if the movement is a continuous motion. It can also be “robotized” with LEGO® Mindstorms robotics.

Here is Olivia’s and Jonas’ Animated Mosaic project is of a Mimon MC and a Two Man Band in a concert.



Saturday, July 18, 2015

B2B Academy: Medieval Castle...

For the Medieval Castle project we did some research on castles from Medieval Times or Middle Ages 450-1500AD and discovered some interesting facts. For example, there was usually a ditch filled with really dirty water around the castle called a moat. The moat served two purposes: one was for defense against enemy attackers because the attackers could not dig under the wall, nor could they get ladders close to the walls, and they would have to swim across, the probably, filthy moat which was often used for the castle’s waste disposal. For the residents of the castle, they were able to cross the moat over a drawbridge. Which brings us to a little physics of simple machines, the drawbridge is an example of a pulley system and the catapult used for flinging rocks, hot metal, and fire balls is a 1st class lever. 

So here is Olivia’s and Jonas’ Medieval Castle…

Olivia, grade 5, wrote this story:

Once upon a time in the land of Lionsville, there lived a king named Mark the II. He had a lot of troubles. The castle needed cleaning, and there was a lack of servants. 
One day he woke up to the sound of battle. A knight rushed in and told the king, “Sir, the skeletons are about to attack and the skeleton king, King Bones (short for Bonsai) has declared war on us. 
Mark the II groaned. There were enough problems already. “Send for the troop,” he commanded! Raise the drawbridge and get the hot water for ready for the Murder Holes.
“Yes Sir!” The knight responded and ran off to make ready for battle.
Finally, after fearce fighting, the battle was won. King Bones and King Mark signed a truce. The castle got its cleaning from the new skeleton servants. 
And all was well at last.

Jonas, grade 3, created a cartoon about the castle, this is part of it:


Saturday, June 27, 2015

B2B - Academy: Motorizing LEGO Car sets...

In 2004 LEGO released the LEGO Racers #8652 – ENZO FERRARI and the LEGO Racers #8671 – FERRARI 430 SPIDER in 2006. In 2014 LEGO created a model #10242 of the classic economy car the MINI Cooper Mk VII. All three models are beautiful replicas, however my students, Brandon and Luc, thought it would be really cool if they were “motorized.” So they took the models apart re-designed them to mooooove…

Mini Cooper
Brandon describes how he motorized the Mini Cooper. I built the LEGO®, MINI Cooper model #10242 kit, then I had to take it apart and redesign it a little to mototize it, because I needed to fit the LEGO®  Power Functions (PF) into the car. The LEGO®  Power Functions parts included one M-Motor, one IR Receiver, one IR-TX Remote, and a rechargeable battery box. I had to raise the base of the car to accommodate the motor and the wheels. Then I replaced the back seats with a PF rechargeable battery box and also replaced the engine block with a PF IR receiver. The car was too small to fit two motors in it, so I put the differential gear under the car and for the motor to power the drive wheels with a long axle. With just one motor the car can only move forward and backward.



Luc designed the Ferrai. I used both the LEGO Racers #8652 – ENZO FERRARI and the LEGO Racers #8671 – FERRARI 430 SPIDER models, to create a motorized LEGO Ferrari design. To do this I had to add two Power Function M-Motors, an Infrared Sensor, and a Battery Box to the car. On one side I use gears, so the motors will go in the same way. By using two motors the car would be able to turn. To move the car I used the Power Function remote.


Beeo, Beeo!


Wednesday, June 3, 2015

A Review: Learning LEGO Mindstorms EV3...

Since the advent of the LEGO® Mindstorms® EV3, manuals about how to build with it and program its robots have appeared in eBooks and printed books. A few are rewrites of previous Mindstorrms NXT books adapted to the new EV3 kit. Then there are a few written from a new perspective and in some cases a little more detail, which is definitely more helpful to the novice Mindstorms builder. Learning LEGO Mindstorms EV3 by Gary Garber, Packt Publishing 2015, is one of those books.

I must say the author has touched on just about everything you might what to know about learning the EV3 system. There are easy explanations and lots of diagrams. So let’s take a look at some of the topics Garber covers…

 A nice feature about this book is that for each chapter there is a brief introductory statement and bullet list of what is being covered in that chapter. So if you are one of those folks (like myself) who does not read a manual from the beginning, you can check out the beginning of each chapter to see if it has the information you are looking for; thank you very much…

 Another nice feature of this book is that the author addresses both the Home and Educational editions of the MIndstorms EV3 kits. Other EV3 books mostly focused on one edition of the kit or the other. In the discussion of Drive Train and Chassiss, chapter 3, examples for a basic vehicle (the author refers to them as a chassis, but to me a chassis is a very basic framework to which wheels, sensors, wires, and other parts will be added to make a working vehicle/robot) is given for both the Home and Educational editions of the EV3. 
Something I have been doing for years when teaching robotics is to have my students maintain an Engineers Notebook; I actually keep on myself when building LEGO Technic® and robots. Now, the EV3 has an Engineer’s Notebook (the Content Editor) included in the software, wonderful! So I was happy to see that the author has a discussion of the Content Editor. He actually devotes a whole chapter on the features and use of the Content Editor, which is excellent.

The chapter on Mechanical Design is very good in that it compares the two motors in the kit, the Large Motor and Medium Motor. It also covers gearing, starting to write a program, and a brief discussion of using (data) wires and parallel threads with nice pictures of examples. Garber mentions the use of the Stop block and that it really is not required, which it not, but when teaching Mindstorms programming to novices is a nice touch and a reference point indicating the end of a program.

The chapter on Sensors covers all the different LEGO® sensors found in both editions, as well as, third-party companies such as, HiTechnic, Mindsensors, Dexter, Verner, etc., which is nice because it lets you know what sensors are found in the two kits and the possibilities of other third-party sensors. Note, only the Educational edition has programming blocks for all the EV3 sensors that LEGO manufactures, including the Energy Meter, Temperature sensor, NXT Sound sensor, and Bluetooth Messaging, but the author does not discuss the programming of these – sigh.

Moving from the basic introductory aspects of the EV3, chapter 5 covers Interacting with EV3; brick buttons, IR  remote/beacon, bluetooth with a smartphone ( a later chapter discusses bluetooth communication between robots), Wi-fi communication, and intermediate programming. After covering image displays, brick lights, and sound output, the author introduces the reader to some advanced programming, data logging, and other programming languages for the EV3. And if you are interested in using the Gyro sensor, there is a chapter on the LEGO Gyro Boy and its programming.
Mr. Garber is a teacher, he teachers Physics and Engineering, and perhaps he is directing this book  to teachers and instructors of Mindstorms robotics and not just the hobbits. This book takes you past the “tutorials” of the LEGO Mindstorms software and accompanying, but limited manual. It helps the teacher/instructor of EV3 robotics understand the system and offers ideas for teaching it. If you purchased the printed book from Packt Publishing, you will have an account, which allows you to download, for free, example code files from the book. If you purchased the book elsewhere (for example Amazon) you can contact: and register to have the files email to you.

Note: On software compatibility, the author states, “As a caution, in version 1.1.0 of the LEGO MINDSTORMS software, Bluetooth communication for the EV3 brick is not compatible with newer versions of Mac OS X.” However, updates have remedy most of the problems except those using Snow Leopard for Mac OS X will experience problems in connecting to Bluetooth. Those with Maverick or above seem to have no problem with either the Home or Educational editions connecting to Bluetooth.

So far out of all the EV3 books I have perused, Learning LEGO Mindstorms EV3 by Gary Garber, Packt Publishing 2015, seems to be the most detailed book on using the EV3, which is excellent for the novice, in particular teachers/instructors, and even former users of the Mindstorms RCX and NXT. I feel the only drawback of the printed book, is that it is not in color. However, you download color images from Packt Publishing: 


Friday, May 1, 2015

B2B Academy: NASA & LEGO...

In October 1957, the world’s first man-made orbital satellite, Sputnik, was launched by Soviet Russia. This amazing event marked the beginning of the Space Age. By 1958 the United States officially entered the space race when President Eisenhower established NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration).

Nov. 2. 2010 it was announced that NASA would enter in partnership, with the signing of a Space Act Agreement, with The LEGO® Group to conduct education and public outreach activities aimed at increasing participation in science, technology, engineering and math fields. Since then LEGO Education models were sent to the International Space Station (ISS) on board the Space Shuttle Endeavor on April 29, 2011. Videos of crew members of the ISS, as part of the LEGO® Education Bricks in Space - NASA Activities, have been made showing the building of LEGO models of ISS instruments that they use on the International Space Station. These videos can be seen at: 

On May 18, 2011 the final flight of the Space Shuttle Endeavor was made carrying on board a model of the LEGO representation of the Space Shuttle Endeavor.

Below is a model and video made by Brandon,



Sunday, March 22, 2015

FLL Global Innovation Award...


Dalton School
New York City, NY, USA

They are Semi-Finalist

in the 

2015 - World Class: Learning Unleashed
FLL Global Innovation Award, presented by XPRIZE


Friday, February 20, 2015

B2B Academy: Leftover FLL Models...

As the FLL (FIRST LEGO League) robotics season nears its end, the question might arise as to what to do with the that season’s Robot Performance Field Set-up Models?

Well, here is some possibilities:

  1. Keep the models and mat, so that you might revisit those exciting moments of the tournament by running a mock tournament.
  2. Keep certain models that seem to reappear in a similar form each year, (loops) so that you may practice during the off-season.
  3. Keep them and invent your own scenario of an obstacle course.
  4. Find another use for them, such as delivering candy or something - cargo plane zip line from Nature's Fury.

5. Or disassemble then and add them to your growing collection of LEGO(R) parts.

Just a few suggestions…

Monday, February 16, 2015

FLL - World Class: NYC FLL Finalists...

WORLD CLASS: Learning Unleashed 
FIRST LEGO League NYC Finalists


Programming 2nd Place 7080 LREI 5th/6th
Robot Performance 1st Place 7079 LREI 7th/8th
Rising Star 11486 SOF Alpha
Teamwork 10053 The Little Warriors of East Harlem
Judges Award 7651 Grace Gremlins
Inspiration 7399 East Side Middle School 1
Strategy and Innovation 11916 East Side Middle School 2
Gracious Professionalism 5997 GatorBots
Champion's 1st Place / Robot Performance 2nd Place 6000 EduGators
Research 15308 CGPS Lions II
Innovative Solutions 2nd Place 356 Thunderbots
Advanced to Javits 2547 West Side Robsters
Mechanical Design 4647 Trinity Gold
Champion's 3rd Place 4648 Trinity Blue
Presentation 9841 Dwi Sci
Champion's 2nd Place / Robot Performance 3rd Place 4621 Team Ecmsi
Innovative Solutions 1st Place 9786 The Automators
Programming 1st Place 11337 Creative Champion Chefs
Against All Odds 10005 The ROCbotics
Advanced to Javits 8472 Work in Progress
Advanced to Javits 13309 MCS Robotics


Champion's 1st Place 5893 Blood, Sweat, & Gears
Champion's 2nd Place / Robot Performance 3rd Place 4427 Master Blasters
Champion's 3rd Place 10083 Flying Bison
Robot Performance 1st Place 5891 Lego Legacy 366
Robot Performance 2nd Place 4426 Dinobots
Presentation 7620 6 Robo Rebels
Innovative Solutions 1st Place 13435 Nanowolves
Innovative Solutions 2nd Place 1995 Mission Masters
Research 1st Place 14483 BlizzardBots
Teamwork 14482 Lightning Blades
Inspiration 11107 Marine Park Robotics 3
Gracious Professionalism 1st Place 9577 I.S. 318 Bytes
Gracious Professionalism 2nd Place 2642 SRCA Royal Sages
Mechanical Design 5892 FGPA Ladywolves
Programming 1st Place 8796 Neon Wolves
Programming 2nd Place 13716 Mission 11
Strategy and Innovation 2449 Lego Eruption
Judges Award 5896 Smartbots
Rising Star 15238 ROBO WARRIORS 
Against All Odds 12671 JHS 223
Advanced to Javits 14327 Robo Panthers
Advanced to Javits 14687 Masterminds 1


Inspiration 760 BoogieBots
Champions 3rd Place / Robot Performance 1st Place 1082 OptiBotz
Presentation 1551 Sonic Gears
Research 2445 Galactic Pandas
Advanced to Javits 2561 TopGearz
Champions 1st Place / Robot Performance 2nd Place 2571 SkyTekz
Advanced to Javits 3071 FLLASH
Mechanical Design / Robot Performance 2nd Place 3427 N3RDY B1RD13S
Teamwork 3429 GirlBot
Strategy and Innovation / Innovative Solution 11645 Bleeker All-Stars
Advanced to Javits 12478 Atom Smashers
Advanced to Javits 13641 Warbots
Programming 15070 Old Schoolers
Champions 2nd Place / Robot Performance 3rd Place 15245 Ryan Robo-Lions
Advanced to Javits 3430 NEUROBOTS

Staten Island

Champions Award 1st Place / Robot Performance 1st Place
St. Clare's Transformers 2
Innovation Award
St. Clare's Transformers 1
Research Award
Robot Performance 2nd Place
Mustangs 1
Mechanical Design
Mustangs 3
Gracious Professionalism
Knights of 24
Advanced to Javits
St. Clare's Transformers 3
Advanced to Javits
Rogue Knights


Robot Performance 2nd Place  5357 RoboTron2
Champions 1st Place / Robot Performance 1st Place 5355 RoboTron1
Mechanical Design  13452 Team Omega Ruby
Programming  12127 Bronx Task Force
Research 4518 Basement Cubs
Innovative Solutions 13453 Team Alpha
Inspiration 15201 C.S. 300 Spartans 
Teamwork 10885 The Millenium Falcons
Advanced to Javits 4843 Plasma Penguins
Advanced to Javits 15029 The Owl-Matics
Advanced to Javits 9666 The Bronxville Bookworms


See you @ Javits